Temporal processing across multiple topographic maps in the electrosensory system

J Neurophysiol. 2008 Aug;100(2):852-67. doi: 10.1152/jn.90300.2008. Epub 2008 May 28.


Multiple topographic representations of sensory space are common in the nervous system and presumably allow organisms to separately process particular features of incoming sensory stimuli that vary widely in their attributes. We compared the response properties of sensory neurons within three maps of the body surface that are arranged strictly in parallel to two classes of stimuli that mimic prey and conspecifics, respectively. We used information-theoretic approaches and measures of phase locking to quantify neuronal responses. Our results show that frequency tuning in one of the three maps does not depend on stimulus class. This map acts as a low-pass filter under both conditions. A previously described stimulus-class-dependent switch in frequency tuning is shown to occur in the other two maps. Only a fraction of the information encoded by all neurons could be recovered through a linear decoder. Particularly striking were low-pass neurons the information of which in the high-frequency range could not be decoded linearly. We then explored whether intrinsic cellular mechanisms could partially account for the differences in frequency tuning across maps. Injection of a Ca2+ chelator had no effect in the map with low-pass characteristics. However, injection of the same Ca2+ chelator in the other two maps switched the tuning of neurons from band-pass/high-pass to low-pass. These results show that Ca2+-dependent processes play an important part in determining the functional roles of different sensory maps and thus shed light on the evolution of this important feature of the vertebrate brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Apamin / pharmacology
  • Benzimidazoles / pharmacology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Calcium Channel Agonists / pharmacology
  • Chelating Agents / pharmacology
  • Egtazic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Egtazic Acid / pharmacology
  • Electric Fish / physiology
  • Glutamic Acid / pharmacology
  • Information Theory
  • Lateral Line System / cytology*
  • Lateral Line System / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / classification
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Sensation / physiology*


  • Benzimidazoles
  • Calcium Channel Agonists
  • Chelating Agents
  • Peptides
  • Apamin
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Egtazic Acid
  • iberiotoxin
  • 1,2-bis(2-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid
  • 1-ethyl-2-benzimidazolinone